After a 16 hour flight (starting at 2:30am), I am finally here, in the land of oil. I won't bore you with details of my journey (2x 7.5 hour flights, with a stopover in Singapore) the food served on the plane (not bad, especially liked the teriyaki chicken slider burger) or the numerous grievances complete strangers have inflicted on me (can you go to jail for murdering somebody because they keep putting their seat back?).
First impressions of Dubai (or the Airport I should say) is this place is clean and modern. I love how the Middle East has such an identifiable culture - sand, pyramids, Arabian moons etc. Perhaps the locals feel otherwise, the way I feel when I see Australian stores draped in the Southern Cross and kangaroo and koala motifs. I also find the national dress of the men (the dishdash) quite enchanting. As the airport is largely a stopover site, the space is caverous and a melting pot of the world's travellers. As I chat with 2 bubbly Americans, we comment on the striking beauty of an Ethiopian woman in elegant dress.
I meet Tina and A at the airport and we jump in a 'ladies taxi' home. By the power of Greyskull its hot here in Dubai. In actuality its probably not, but as I am still in relatively warm clothes from Australia, I am feeling it. So much construction. We pass Burj Khalifa on our way, and its top spire seems ridiculous - a true skyscraper. The apartment is in Jumeirah Beach Residences (JBR according to locals), and is one of 30 000 in the development. Yes, 30 000. All pretty much identical, which I am sure would confuse many a drunken reveller trying to make their way home. Once inside, I am greeted warmly by the other men of the house, and informed of a pool party this afternoon at Atlantis Hotel.
So off we trot. I have heard much about the Atlantis from media - the hotel opened to much fanfare in September 2008, with celebrities in attendance. Also, the upcoming Portugal vs Brazil game will be televised on huge screens. And this is definitely a pool party - the beautiful people are crammed around the colossal pool in clumps, there is a DJ playing dance music, and the ubiquitous beach ball is being lobbed around the place.
After saying a cheerio to a few of A's friends, we up sticks and find a table near the bar. After waiting for at least an hour and repeating our order perhaps 5 times, our comedian of a waiter finally brings our drinks and meals. Have a heartattack when I see the price of food - 70 bucks? Heart attack subsides when I remember that Aussie dollar is approximately 3 times the Dirham. Disappointment and annoyance sets in when Tina and I realise our AUD$23 caesar salad is in reality no more than a bowl of lettuce leaves, with 3 croutons and 2 bits of chicken. We then wander around the Atlantis hotel itself, past the restaurants and boutiques for the well-heeled and I get a touristy pic at the aquarium. After a short spell outside at the pool party, the hours of flying and crossing international timezones set in and I decide to have an early night.
I like Dubai, it is charming in a novelty way. It seems there is a slight lack of planning - apparently the roads can be challenging - if you miss a turn off it takes some distance to double-back. But I think the interaction between all people from different backgrounds (who all seem to have a zest for life) is quite enticing, and I can now see why many people have decided to make this their home for a while.